The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.
NEW YORK (
) --The social demonstrations against corporate greed and economic inequality continue to spread. The political impact that these protesters will have is still debatable. However, each of us must decide independently: When does the political become personal? Should I get involved?
I am from a middle class family from Staten Island. My mother and father never had the opportunity to go to college and neither did my brothers and sisters.
I like the lifestyle that my career on Wall Street has afforded me. First of all, l admit to like living the "good life." I don't make tons, but enough to enjoy myself. Also, it's nice to give back to my parents, who have given me so much.
On the other hand, when I consider how unfair the bailout package was (and that many of the same bank executives are still in power), it gets me pissed. The corporate greed and political partnership in our country is awful. Sometimes, I feel like I should quit my job and join the Occupy Wall Street movement. I may be ranting here, but needed to get it out!
What would you be joining?
On its website, "Occupy Wall Street" states it is:
"...a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants."
"Occupy Wall Street" seems to be all liberal (best sense of the word!) things to all liberal people; with an overarching concept that social and structural inequities are perpetuated by the few at the expense of the many.
The protesters believe Wall Street professionals, media pundits, and political legislators are all the culprits of these inequities.
Are They Talking About You?
Yes and no!
Literally: Yes, because you stated you work in the financial industry and these protesters do not seem to discriminate.
Reality: No, because as you implied you "don't make tons" of money. You did not personally execute the billion-dollar bank bailout and I have a feeling your bonus was not exactly groundbreaking.
The fact that you subscribe to the
Wall Street Journal
does not make you Bernie Madoff!
What Should You Do?
I should not tell you what to do... yet, I will. You are a young man from Staten Island, currently living the American dream. You will most likely earn more money in the next 10 years than either of your parents have ever made in their lifetime. Most outstanding to me is that you continue to give back to your family. That is revolutionary!
I happen to agree with a great deal of the protesters' sentiments. I am appalled by illegal housing foreclosure processes, billion-dollar bank bailouts using taxpayer dollars, and record-level CEO bonuses during times of dangerously low unemployment and under-employment rates. However, merely working on Wall Street does not a criminal make!! You are a hardworking man -- you are not responsible for these acts.
America is a capitalistic country and Wall Street is the financial engine that keeps it running. We need workers like you to live among the bears and the bulls, helping to make the financial industry more ethical and less self-serving. We need workers like you to point out the difference between the lives of your families and the lives of your co-workers. Perhaps one day we will even look to workers like you to help solve some of our countries' major macro social and economic problems -- including a crumbling infrastructure, inept educational system and illogical healthcare programs.
By thinking globally and acting locally, you become one of the great agents of change. I repeat, we need ethical hardworking professionals like you.
For now continue enjoying your life and providing your parents with the resources to make their own lives more comfortable. Feel free to send me their email addresses. I'd love to tell them they should be very proud of their son -- as should the mothers and fathers of the sons and daughters in Zuccotti Park, who have raised those with the courage to fight for what they believe in.
Reminder: All or nothing, black and white thinking is remarkably comforting. Drawing sides is easy, where looking deeply at the truth is very difficult. Our countries' problems are not simple.
They involve conflicting interests, whose heroes and villains are not easily defined. Defining right and wrong -- (with the exception of indisputable horrors), exists on a spectrum rather than in absolutes.
Please keep sending me all your wonderful questions and comments to "Ask Noah" at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also
Have a profitable and peaceful week,